A cold sore on the face can be embarrassing. At their worst, they can blister and burst. Even worse than that, they can be extremely painful. For most people, however, the pain isn’t the primary focus. The problem is that there are too many stereotypes linked with cold sores.

So, it’s easy for people to become embarrassed or ashamed of them. Thankfully, there are things you can do about cold sores on the face, to help treat them quickly.

Let’s learn a bit more about why cold sores appear, and where they most commonly occur on the face. Then, we can take a closer look at different possible treatment options. The more you know about why cold sores happen, the more you’ll be able to fight them off.

Why Do Cold Sores Appear on the Face?

Cold sores are considered to be the herpes virus or HSV-1. This virus is often called ‘facial herpes.’ It’s very different from HSV-2, which is connected to genital herpes. It’s easy for people sometimes to assume that the two go hand-in-hand, but they don’t.

As you might expect, facial herpes is bound to appear on the face. The virus itself lives just underneath the outer layer of the skin, as a cluster of cells near the ear. It is dormant most of the time until a flare-up occurs. The virus can only be caught through transmission of some kind. This can happen as early as childhood, if someone with the virus kisses you, etc. Though, it can be contracted at any time, through skin-to-skin contact.

Where Do Facial Cold Sores Appear?

The herpes virus tends to focus on the nasal area of the face. So, cold sores typically show up around the lips, or just under the nose. However, this virus can also affect the eyes, and cause infection. Some people also have experienced cold sores on the cheek, though these cases are rare. Most commonly, you’ll see cold sores around the mouth. This is what makes them so noticeable. It can also make them more painful since we use our mouths so often – it can make it more difficult for the cold sores to heal quickly.

You may not even know if you already have the virus if you’ve never experienced an outbreak of any kind. Some people’s symptoms are very mild. However, specific triggers cause cold sores to appear. These are also different for everyone, but some common triggers seem to be the ‘main cause’ of problems for most people with HSV-1, again and again.

Common Triggers for Cold Sores

Knowing what might trigger a cold sore on your face can help you to take precautionary and preventative measures. Again, triggers can be different for everyone. But, it’s important to know what to look for, and what you can do to help prevent these triggers as much as possible.


From the common cold to the flu, illness of any kind can be a trigger for people with HSV-1. Getting sick can make it far too easy for the virus to step forward. They aren’t called ‘cold sores’ for no reason, after all. Why does this happen? Well, when we fall ill for any reason, our immune systems are weakened. That makes a perfect opportunity for the virus to become active. It doesn’t have to deal with the immune system ‘fighting back,’ and can show up in the form of cold sores.


Trauma to the mouth/nasal region can also cause cold sores to appear. This can be anything from getting hit in the mouth, to having dental work done where your dentist bumps your lips, etc.

Hormonal Changes

Women, mainly, should be aware of the possibility of a cold sore outbreak due to hormonal changes. Things like menstruation, and pregnancy, can cause an outbreak of the sores.

Weather Changes

Too much exposure to sunlight can cause cold sores to appear, so it’s essential to wear a lip balm with a high SPF. On the other hand, extremely cold temperatures are also a big trigger for cold sores. Protect your face, and especially your mouth, as much as you can when extreme weather comes around.


With the busy world we live in, it’s easy to feel a lot of stress. However, that stress can cause cold sores to flare up. Stress, like sickness, tends to weaken our immune system. It leaves us feeling fatigued, and run down. Again, this creates a perfect environment for cold sores to show up. Try different techniques to reduce stress in your life. Anything from meditation and yoga, to deep breathing exercises, can help.

How to Treat Cold Sores on the Face

Take precautionary measures when you can. Knowing what usually triggers cold sores can make it easier to take a few extra steps. Washing your hands, avoiding skin on skin contact with people who have cold sores, and protecting yourself from the elements can all be a massive help in lessening your chances of an outbreak. However, cold sores can still happen. Despite our best efforts, it’s impossible to know where we ‘slip up,’ and give the virus a chance to ‘attack.’

If cold sores appear on your face, though, you can treat them. Cold sores will eventually go away on their own. In fact, it doesn’t take too long. Several days of healing is usually standard for cold sores to come and go. During that time, however, you can try to speed up the process. These treatment options also will help with pain and discomfort.

Over-the-Counter Medications

There are plenty of balms, creams, and ointments designed to help with cold sores. Some of the most popular brands include:

These medicated creams work by penetrating the skin and blocking the herpes virus. When this happens, the cold sore can heal much faster. They provide fast and effective results that are well worth the price.

are facial cold sores contagious?


Lysine is an amino acid you can find in supplement form, or as cream. It has been known not only to lessen the intensity of a flare-up but reduce the likelihood of future breakouts. You can include a lysine supplement in your daily routine, and it will help to fight future flare-ups everyday.

Aloe Vera

Whether you use an aloe vera plant or cream, it can help to reduce pain with cold sores on the face. There isn’t much research on how it affects the timeline of the healing process. But, if your cold sores have blistered, and are starting to burst, aloe can certainly help with that.

Its healing properties can reduce the discomfort, and allow the cold sores to ‘close up’ faster. Pain is one of the biggest complaints people have when it comes to cold sores. Aloe vera is incredible at soothing that pain. It also helps to moisturize the lips. This can prevent the lesions from cracking, splitting, and bleeding.

Lemon Balm

There are many medicated and natural lip balms available that can help with cold sores. Research has found that using a lemon balm can help to reduce the overall healing time. It can also be combined with other herbs. The idea of lemon balm is to ‘relax’ the flare-up, which can create a soothing feeling. Taking away the discomfort and pain is half the battle of a flare-up. Carrying a small tube of balm around with you is a great way to find a bit of relief, wherever you are.

When it comes to cold sores showing up on the face, treatment can vary. The best thing you can do is to try and prevent a cold sore before it happens. Unfortunately, no matter how healthy we try to be, occasionally the virus can get the best of us. In those cases, take comfort in knowing there are many treatment options available.

Try to reduce your overall stress, and live a healthy lifestyle. If a cold sore flare-up does occur, any of the treatment options listed here can help. Not only should they reduce the length of your flare-up, but they can help with pain and discomfort.

About 90% of people have the HSV-1 virus living dormant inside them. So, if you have a flare-up, you’re certainly not alone. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about, even on the face. As long as you continue to take care of yourself, and treat the cold sore(s) as necessary, the virus itself doesn’t have to be a constant annoyance in your life.